Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ten for Tuesday - Overrated Hall of Famers

Hey everyone, Drew back here. This week, I decided to write the riskiest post in the history of drewscards. Feelings will be hurt. People will be up in arms over some of what will soon follow. But I have to decided to make my case for ten players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame who I find overrated. Keep in mind, I already wrote a list a few weeks ago about who should not be in the Hall of Fame at all, and none of those players will be featured on this list today. Every single player on this list is worthy of induction, and some may very well be considered some of the greatest to ever play the game. You may not agree with everything I say, and you may let your biases and personal ties to players get in the way of the cold hard facts. However, if I can name three former Yankees on this list like I'm about to do, you are all more than capable of throwing all of your ties aside for the sake of what I'm attempting to achieve with this column.

There is a difference between being worthy and being overrated. Remember that.

Top 10 Overrated Players in the Hall of Fame

Honorable Mention - Pete Rose
Utility, Cincinnati Reds / Philadelphia Phillies / Montreal Expos

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Pete Rose will have a place on this list if and when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. This man's name alone has been hyped up ever since he was banned from baseball, and he even uses that to his own marketing advantage. He has built up a huge crowd of baseball fans, myself included, who view baseball as the villain after he broke the rules. Rose is a genius for what he has been able to do; parking next door to every Hall of Fame induction and constantly making headlines.

But if he never cheated, and he went into the Hall five years after his retirement on his first ballot, how often would he stand out to this extent? Sure, he is the all time hits leader, and there is something to be said about that. 3,215 of those 4,256 hits were singles, and he was never much of a power threat. He prolonged his career by becoming a player-manager, which helped him manipulate his team to collect more hits even if it meant benching someone more deserving of a place on the lineup card. He was never a great fielder, and despite playing like his hair was on fire for almost a quarter century, he came up short of 200 stolen bases.

I'm not trying to say this man is not a Hall of Fame caliber player. But only a select few players should receive the attention that Rose currently receives, and he does not belong in that upper echelon. Without cheating, he would get one of the better applauses at each year's Hall of Fame induction, but never much more than that. I hope Pete finally gets his wish from Commissioner Manfred one day for the sake for baseball, but it will forever be easy to call "Charlie Hustle" overhyped and overrated.

10 - Ozzie Smith
SS, St. Louis Cardinals

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The first player on this week's list was one I had a very difficult time configuring. I have always loved watching Ozzie Smith's highlight reel plays, and I view him as the greatest defensive shortstop in history. But when comparing his statistics alongside Pee Wee Reese, who, although rated poorly with advanced fielding statistics, was a much better offensive producer with an above average glove, I could not keep "The Wizard of Oz" off this list. Smith's career on base percentage was .337, which ranks closely to Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken Jr. among shortstops, but when you fathom Banks' inclusion in the 500 Home Run Club and Ripken's in the 3000 Hit Club, their statuses are boosted up a notch.

Ozzie was a slightly above average hitter for shortstops of his era, and the best defensive player around. He is adored in St. Louis and is one of the nicest men I've ever met. Just watch the Pepsi Max commercial from a few years back and tell me he didn't steal the spotlight with his signature flip. And unfortunately, it's things like that which bring him onto the overrated lists. He is generally comparable to almost any other shortstop in the Hall, yet his persona and likeness as a Fan Favorite bring his stature to a level higher than what his performance may have yielded.

It isn't a bad thing for us to love Ozzie, just as it isn't for Brewers fans to love Robin Yount, Padres fans to love Tony Gwynn, and Tigers fans to love Al Kaline. But you need to be careful analyzing these players and avoid common biases when deciding who belongs more than another. Smith is an unquestionable Hall of Famer, well deserving of his place as an immortal. But every player has its downfall, and considering he only batted over .300 once in his illustrious 19 year career; offense was certainly that.

9 - Rollie Fingers
CP, Oakland Athletics / San Diego Padres / Milwaukee Brewers

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Speaking of signature attributes, what would Rollie Fingers be without his handlebar mustache? Sure, Fingers had a dominant career, and was one of the first relievers to revolutionize the closer role into what it has since become. I view his career as perhaps the greatest of any of the closer-type pitchers currently in the Hall, as his period of dominance is the longest (until Mariano Rivera is inducted). Many know him for his impressive MVP and Cy Young victories in the 1981 season. What many don't realize is that he was 34 years old at that time, and had already pitched effectively for thirteen years!

I still haven't really made up my mind over how/if closers should be chosen for the Hall, but I think even if I tightened the group, Fingers would still make the cut. However, it must be said that he played in an excellent pitcher's park in Oakland and was a part of some fantastic teams. Winning does increases relevance in mainstream society, but closers typically don't have the biggest say in that (except when Kirk Gibson or Luis Gonzalez stepped up to the dish). I think the entire closer position is overrated, and this is coming from someone who watched Rivera pitch at the top of his game. 

And, I'll ask again. How would Rollie Fingers be viewed today if he didn't have that mustache? Among the hardcore fans like myself and a majority of you, he is placed correctly in the Hall, despite what anyone says about the closer position. But it really surprises me how many non-hardcore, young baseball fans know about Rollie Fingers, and nothing in his statistics really prove why that may be. It may sound silly, but Fingers' career simply does not measure up to what grew above his upper lip.

8 - Reggie Jackson
OF/DH, Oakland Athletics / Baltimore Orioles / New York Yankees / California Angels

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I can already smell the hatred spilling out of some of your eyes as you glance over the names I have thus far deemed to be overrated. The first Yankee to make the list, Mr. October transcended the game in a unique way. He, along with contemporaries Dave Kingman and Bobby Bonds, reinvented the slugger in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Players now did not have to excel defensively to earn playing time, as long as they were capable of hitting the ball out of the stadium at the right time. This change even called for the Designated Hitter rule in the American League, which some people have hated from the very start. Now, players did not even have to play the field if they were liabilities on the defensive side. Jackson was a horrible outfielder, retiring with 142 errors as an outfielder, despite playing over 600 of his 2,820 games as the DH.

Jackson's offense was completely one dimensional, as seen from his 563 career home runs, and all time record 2,597 strikeouts. Approximately 40% of his plate appearances resulted in either a home run, strikeout, or walk; the epitome of the three outcome slugger. Nowadays, the Chris Davis', Mark Reynolds', and Adam Dunn's of the world are keeping Jackson's legacy alive, and strikeouts are more prominent than ever before. He retired with a lifetime batting average of .262, one of the lowest career marks among position players inducted. His clutch performances and legendary moments, along with his absurd strength make Jackson a fan favorite, even through his terrible reputation with fans. His ego has clashed with some of baseball's finest, and on occasion his blunt comments have put his name in the next day's newspaper. 

I grew up absolutely loving Reggie Jackson, especially after watching ESPN's "The Bronx is Burning" series. But after meeting him, I really changed my mind about the way I felt about October's former hero. My personal opinion about the man himself did not bring him onto this list, but it certainly made it easier for me to feel comfortable about the decision. 

7 - Dennis Eckersley
CP, Cleveland Indians / Boston Red Sox / Chicago Cubs / Oakland Athletics / St. Louis Cardinals

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The hate parade for closers is not finished yet, unfortunately, although I can say that Dennis Eckersley is ranked as my most overrated closer in the Hall of Fame. "Eck" was a troubled, inconsistent starting pitcher for much of the first half of his career, until Tony LaRussa moved him into the bullpen with the Oakland A's. From that point forward, he was indestructible for about a six year stretch. But like newly inducted HOF'er John Smoltz, he may receive a bit too much credit for having retired with almost 200 wins and 400 saves. Some give these pitchers credit for being able to make a "significant" adjustment, and if that is any part of the reason they are rewarded, that is absolutely bogus. Even Eckersley said that the closer position is overrated, saying that it isn't as hard to transition into as one may think. 

Eckersley was not a Hall of Fame starting pitcher. He is a Hall of Fame reliever, but only for that six year span. He belongs as a whole, but was no Rivera, Fingers, or even Gossage.

6 - Don Drysdale
SP, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers

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Here is where things begin to get a little dicey. Don Drysdale was as dominant as can be when he was on his game. However, the simple fact that he shared the spotlight with Sandy Koufax is his ultimate downfall. Some may view Koufax as overrated because he didn't have the longevity, but this doesn't matter to me when it comes to starting pitchers. In fact, I'm much more content in knowing that we never got to experience Koufax past his prime, as it could have partially diminished his legacy.

As for Drysdale, he was always a very good pitcher, but he may have been forgotten had he pitched in almost any other city. His career ERA of 2.95 is good, but not great. His career record of 209-166 is good, but not great. With the exception of his fantastic 1962 campaign in which he finished with a 25-9 record, 2.83 ERA, and a league leading 232 strikeouts, Drysdale belonged in the Hall of Very Good. He wasn't the best postseason performer, either. Basically, the guy earned his place in the Hall, but he's closer to Juan Marichal and Fergie Jenkins than Whitey Ford and the aforementioned Koufax that he is more frequently mentioned among.

5 - Dizzy Dean
SP, St. Louis Cardinals / Chicago Cubs / St. Louis Browns
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Dizzy Dean has one of the stranger stat-lines of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame. And, upon further review, it feels like something is left to be desired, especially since he has always been so highly regarded among baseball historians. Dean's career was ruined by injuries, and he only managed six full seasons. Granted, they were six phenomenal years, especially his MVP winning performance in 1934. He won 30 games that season with a 2.66 ERA, and followed up the next year with another 28 wins to bolster his statistics. But as we know, the "What Could Have Been" players generally have never produced enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Thurman Munson, Dwight Gooden, Dave Parker, and modern day stars like Josh Hamilton all had the talent to one day be enshrined, but the tragic truth to it is that they fell short.

It's one thing to feel for someone who was one of the more colorful men in the game in the early 20th century, but it's another to honor him for what he did not quite achieve. I have no problem with Dean being in the Hall of Fame for his dominant short career and legacy as a color commentator, but I do think he is over-recognized by fans. He may have been one of the best, but he wasn't, so he should not be spoken of as if he was.

4 - Joe DiMaggio
OF, New York Yankees

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Woah, boy. I bet you didn't see this coming. Joe DiMaggio is one of the most famous baseball players in history. Heck, he dated Marilyn Monroe and Paul Simon wrote a song about him! For a while after his retirement, he was voted baseball's greatest living player, ahead of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams. After comparing his statistics alongside those three, I would have to take all 3 before choosing DiMaggio. Now don't get me wrong, "Joltin' Joe" would easily fall in my All Time Top 25, but advanced metrics as well as a shortened career would move him closer to my #25 than to my #1. His 56 Game Hitting Streak is one of the most impressive milestones throughout sports history, but some of the older folk will say he is the greatest player of all time because they had the pleasure of watching him play. I've seen Derek Jeter do some impressive things at games I have attended, but I cannot say he was better than Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, or even Joe DiMaggio for that matter. Sabermetrics have also hurt his case for being one of the greatest to ever take the field, as they say he was not quite as spectacular a defender as he was praised to be. I always take sabermetrics with a grain of salt, but this may make sense considering how people have practically described the man as a superhero prior to these further evaluations.

If DiMaggio was able to play in his prime rather than serve in World War II, perhaps he would deserve the enormous amount of baseball respect he already has. This sacrifice he made should be recognized and appreciated; don't get me wrong. He's as surefire as it gets for the Hall of Fame, but his reputation as one of the most famous sports figures ever should be up for debate.

Sorry, Yankee fans. It hurt me to say all that. Sorry Joe.

3 - Cy Young
SP, Cleveland Spiders / St. Louis Perfectos / Boston Americans/Red Sox / Cleveland Naps / Boston Rustlers

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Denton True Young was baseball's first ace. Perhaps this is why the annual Cy Young Award is named in his honor, but I always got the impression that it was because some believed he was the greatest pitcher of that era. Winning 500 games is a ridiculous accomplishment, one I believe will never be paralleled thanks to the way baseball has changed since his retirement over a century ago. When Young pitched, he would often pitch consecutive days in a row, not receiving much rest between games. He threw the most innings of all time at 7,356, and it really is marvelous that his arm didn't fall off (talk about Tommy John Surgery). Let's not forget that along with those 511 wins, he is one of only two pitchers to lose over 300 games (316) as well. There were some good hitters in that period of time, especially Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner; but it was called "The Dead Ball Era" for a reason. Until Babe Ruth came around, pitchers rarely allowed home runs, which helped glorify their ERA's in the history books.

There is nothing we can change about Cy Young. We cannot say "He wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame if he played today," because we simply do not know that. Pitching has endured several recent hardships, but Young would appreciate some rest between starts. The Hall of Fame doesn't embark on hypothetical journeys. His 511 wins should not be held against him, as he did earn them, after all. But they should not help his case either.

What I'm trying to say is; if you think Cy Young is the greatest pitcher of all time just because the award is in his name, you're probably wrong. I understand that the award was named in his honor after his death, and I have no problem with that sentiment. But Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and possibly even Grover Cleveland Alexander may rank above him on most all time pitcher rankings, so I in no means consider him the greatest pitcher in history. 

2 - Phil Rizzuto
SS, New York Yankees

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The final Yankee inclusion on this list just so happens to be one of our most beloved, Phil Rizzuto. "Scooter" was an electrifying player on one of several of baseball's all time greatest teams, and added to his resumé much like Dizzy Dean, as a broadcaster. In 1950, he was the American League's MVP; his .324 average, .418 OBP, and 200 hits far exceeding any of his previous heights. Unfortunately, one season of this caliber is not normally enough for any player who did not take the spotlight of New York. Rizzuto was a wonderful baseball man who could have been a Hall of Famer for his broadcasting exploits alone, but by putting him in the Hall of Fame for his playing career, it opens the floodgates to the "if Rizzuto is in, then ______ should be in as well". While it is more than okay to honor players of the past, there simply is not enough room in the Hall of Fame for all of the players with similar career statistics to Rizzuto's. 

Again, much like DiMaggio, his numbers were affected by his serving in World War II. There is no denying his legacy as an American citizen, but he should have been denied for the Hall of Fame. Some may say the Fame in Hall of Fame is what keeps him in ahead of Marty Marion and co., but fame should not be what bases upon player's election. There's Hollywood for things like that.

I slipped up by not mentioning Rizzuto in my Undeserving Hall of Fame players list, but this list applies equally as well. "Scooter" simply does not compare to the greatest shortstops of all time, and it's unfortunate considering how fantastic a person he was.

1 - Nolan Ryan
SP, New York Mets / California Angels / Houston Astros / Texas Rangers

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I now introduce you to the most overrated player currently in the Hall of Fame. That, my friends; is Nolan Ryan. There is an aura surrounding the man who has struck out more batters than anyone before, and I'm going to testify against that very aura. I am well aware of his 7 no-hitters, long-term stability, and knack for the strikeout. There may have never been a more dominant pitcher when he was on his game. But let's take notice to how I worded that statement. When he was on his game.

"The Ryan Express" was a work horse like no other. He battled for every out, pitcher vs. batter; almost like something from an old western. If he didn't bring his best stuff to the ballpark, he was prone to being tossed around. If I could choose one pitcher to start a game deciding my fate, I would have a tough time choosing between Ryan and Bob Gibson. 

This does not make Nolan Ryan the best pitcher of all time. Most competitive? Perhaps. But best? No. Ryan only won 20 games twice in his 27 year career that ended when he was 46 years young. He never won a Cy Young Award, ridiculous as it may sound, while his modern-day counterpart Roger Clemens (with the use of steroids) was awarded with 7 such trophies. He walked a ridiculous 4.67 batters per nine innings pitched, and retired with the all time record of 2,795 walks allowed. In 1974 and 1977, he walked over 200 batters! He tied or led the league in Wild Pitches in six seasons. His ERA often sat in the mid 3.00's by the conclusion of most years.

For anyone who claims Ryan to be the best they ever saw, they can say that. With his command, Nolan Ryan was as unstoppable as a pitcher could be, which led to some of the best pitching performances ever recorded. But someone with such wishy-washy command should not be viewed as the greatest hurler in the history of the game, because he was dependent on his control in order to determine how he would perform. The best pitchers in history did not need to depend on anything that critical in order to be successful.

Who is the most overrated player in the Hall of Fame?

Nolan Ryan
Phil Rizzuto
Cy Young
Other - Comment Below
Poll Maker

Phew. The roast has finally come to a halt. Let me conclude by once again saying that I'm not trying to tear apart any of these players in this post, because they were all much better baseball players than I will ever be. All 11 should be in the Hall of Fame, but there should be some more attention spread out to other members of the Hall. I will soon return with a more positive spin on the Hall, focusing on which members are criminally underrated among their peers. 

Until next Tuesday, See Ya!


  1. I don't agree with everything, but the arguments are well written and you make some very solid cases ! that was a great read, thanks

  2. To me Bill Mazeroski is the #1 overrated HOF player. I'm not sure if he should even be in.

  3. You did a great job. Your arguments were well thought out and well written. Thanks for calling me up and discussing with me.


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